News and Events

Botanical Buzz - Almonds

Friday, January 09, 2015

Fresh, vibrant and exciting, the Sensory Gardens of the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden always live up to their reputation of delivering a unique experience to visitors.

To a child, the Sensory Gardens is a magical place.  A winding ever-changing path takes them on an experiential journey.  They are entranced by the kaleidoscope of colours, multitude of textures, soothing sounds, changing lights and delightful scents. The popular stepping stones provide a little thrill of adventure and no one can resist running their hands through the fountains. It is no wonder that the Sensory Gardens are often full of children and laughter.

To the discerning gardener, the Sensory Gardens are a triumph of design and a place from which to draw inspiration. Council staff will always be happy to provide details of botanical specimens.

A recently added species, Prunus dulcis more commonly known as the almond tree, has an ancient relationship with humankind. Almond trees were domesticated over five thousand years ago and now support a multi-billion dollar global industry.

The almond tree is native to the Middle East and South Asia.  It is closely related to the peach but its fruits have a tough, leathery coating rather than a juicy pulp. Almonds are cultivated for their seeds which are often mistakenly described as nuts.

Wild almonds, the ancestors of today’s cultivars, are poisonous. They contain amygdalin which readily metabolises to produce hydrogen cyanide, a potent toxin.

California produces 80 percent of the world’s crop of these highly versatile, nutritionally packed seeds. In 2013 Californian farmers produced over 1.55 million tonnes of almonds. Australia produces 6 percent of the world’s commercial crop.

Almonds may be eaten on their own or used as ingredients in many modern and traditional recipes from all over the world.

The wonderful collection of fruit trees in the Sensory Gardens remind children that fruit grows on trees and not on supermarket shelves.
                                                                                                                                By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Gardenia

Friday, January 09, 2015

Heavenly scents are entrancing visitors at Shoyoen, Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.

The Magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora), Chinese Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides ) and the Gardenias (Gardenia augusta Florida a variety of Gardenia jasminoides) are all in flower and their white and creamy white flowers are producing a spectacular visual display and an olfactory delight.

Of these beautiful plants Gardenia jasminoides has an ancient and particularly fascinating history.

The genus Gardenia belongs in the coffee family, Rubiaceae and was named after the Scottish-born American doctor and botanist Dr Alexander Garden FRS (1730-91). Although Alexander Garden was declared to be “the most famous physician of colonial times” he might have disappeared into the mists of time were it not for the plants named after him.

Gardenia jasminoides is a tropical evergreen plant native to Asia and has been bewitching plant lovers for over one thousand years.   There is evidence that Gardenia jasminoides was cultivated in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD). Both wild and double-flowered forms are depicted in paintings from that period.

The delicate white fragrant blooms are used in the lei necklaces of the Hawaiian islands, as boutonnières (buttonholes) for men in formal dress and are one of the classic wedding flowers. Gardenia jasminoides is also the national flower of Pakistan.

Gardenias are called “kuchinashi” in Japanese. This literally means “no mouth” and is a reference to the fruits which do not open, even when ripe.

In Japan the ancient game of “Go”, is traditionally played on tables which sit on four feet shaped like kuchinashi. This is supposed to suggest that onlookers keep their mouths closed and refrain from making comments during games.

Gardenia fruits are used in China both as a source of yellow dye and for various unsubstantiated medicinal uses.

Beautiful flowers, delightful scents and fascinating histories; a visit to the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden is always memorable.

Botanical Buzz - Biodiversity Garden

Friday, January 09, 2015

A stroll through the beautiful Biodiversity Garden of the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden prompts reflection on Australia’s amazing biodiversity.

Australia is home to more than 20,000 plant species (not including algae) and roughly 17,700 of our vascular plants are exclusively native to Australia. Australia is so rich in plant species that there are more plant species (2500) native to Sydney than the whole of the British Isles.

The Biodiversity Garden displays a selection of the roughly 1,000 plants native to the Dubbo region.

Australian wildflowers are often smaller than the highly cultivated exotic species readily available in garden stores but they are extremely varied in colour and shape, and exquisitely beautiful. A good example is Melaleuca thymifolia (Thyme Honey Myrtle) which has just come into flower.

Melaleuca is a genus of plants in the myrtle family Myrtaceae known for its natural soothing and cleansing properties. There are well over 200 recognised species, most of which are endemic to Australia.

Melaleuca thymifolia has clusters of attractive, rich, mauve, feathery flowers from November to autumn. New growth is spicily aromatic when bruised.

Melaleuca thymifolias are growing near the billabong of the Biodiversity Garden.

Also just coming into flower are Dianella caerulea (Blue Flax-lily) and Dianella revoluta (Black-anther Flax-lily).  These robust perennials with long narrow leaves are very popular especially for water wise gardens. The beautiful blue star-shaped flowers with six yellow, thickened stamens are followed by attractive, blue or purple pea-sized fruits. The plants will continue to flower through summer. Dianella caerulea and Dianella revoluta were used by traditional Aboriginal people.

These Dianella sp. may be found growing along the paths in the Biodiversity Garden.

Designed as an educational resource, the Biodiversity Garden displays the major ecosystems that thrived in the Dubbo region before European settlement. Students of all ages regularly visit the garden to study the plants and their habitats. A visit to this “wild oasis” is always worthwhile.
                                                                                                                                By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Water Lily

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The serene and transcendent beauty of the water lily may be observed in Shoyoen, Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.

Water lilies belong to the ancient family Nymphaeaceae, named after the nymphs of Greek and Roman mythology. Its fossil records extend back to the Cretaceous period, the time of dinosaurs.

The Nymphaeaceae are aquatic, rhizomatous herbs usually pollinated by beetles. The family includes the genus Nymphaea which contains roughly 35 species in the Northern Hemisphere, and the genus Victoria which contains two species of giant water lilies endemic to South America.

Nymphaea caerulea (blue Egyptian lotus) and Nymphaea lotus (white Egyptian lotus) were considered extremely significant in Egyptian mythology and often appear in ancient Egyptian art. Ornaments of both blue and white lotuses were found with the mummy of Rameses ll.

To this day, water lilies continue to make an impression on the human psyche. They famously feature in the works of the founder of French impressionist painting, Claude Monet (1840 –1926). Water lilies have also been chosen as national floral emblems. Nymphaea lotus is the floral emblem of Egypt and Nymphaea nouchali  (also known as Nymphaea stellata) is the floral emblem of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

The Victoria amazonica is the largest water lily in the world and one of the most fascinating. Its circular leaves grow up to 3 metres in diameter and its flowers have an intriguing pollination strategy which involves changing gender.

When the nocturnal flowers open for the first time they are white, female and emit a strong pineapple-like scent. This attracts the scarab beetle pollinator.  As daybreak approaches, the flower closes, trapping the beetle inside. By the time the flower opens again on the second night it has changed its colour to pink and its sex to male. The beetle emerges covered with new pollen ready to seek out another white, fragrant, receptive water lily.
                                                                                                                                By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Rose

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Symbolising love, romance and beauty, the roses framing the entrance to the Sensory Gardens, Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden provide a very fitting welcome to this beautiful garden space.

“Rose” was the childhood sobriquet of Napoleon’s wife the Empress Josephine. Napoleon disapproved and changed her name to Josephine.

While Napoleon was away on his conquests, Josephine purchased Château de Malmaison roughly 12km outside Paris and endeavoured to transform the large estate into "the most beautiful and curious garden in Europe, a model of good cultivation".

One of the garden spaces at Malmaison was devoted to roses; possibly the first specialist rose garden in the world.

Josephine assembled a team of expert horticulturalists and scientists and asked Napoleon to have his men send her rose seeds and cuttings from wherever they ventured. Even the British, then Europe’s preeminent rose producers, with a massive naval blockade aimed at the French, bent to her will. English growers sent their rose plantings directly to Malmaison.

At Malmaison, English roses, which only flowered once a year and faded quickly when cut, were systematically hybridised with roses from China to produce roses that bloomed several times a season, and looked splendid in a vase for days. The selective breeding also produced flowers with more petals.

The roses were so beautiful that Josephine commissioned the Belgian artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté to paint them. The Roses, a book comprising many of these botanical illustrations may still be purchased.

Roses grace two major architectural features in the Sensory Gardens. The climbing variety Pierre de Ronsard looks spectacular on the arbour and the beautiful David Austin Roses Glamis Castle and William Shakespeare fill the air with their heavenly scent in the Georgian style garden bed.

These beautiful roses, like the love affair of Napoleon and Josephine may fade with time, so come and see the display while it is at its best.

                                                                                                                                    By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Japanese Maple

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Escape from the noise and chaos of the world in the tranquil Japanese tea garden (roji) in Shoyoen, Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.

The purpose of the roji, which traditionally means alley way or path, is to help release the visitor of their worldly cares and prepare them, mentally and spiritually for the tea ceremony. 

The roji is in two parts, an outer and an inner roji. The Japanese Tea House sits within the inner roji.

The roji is designed to re-create the quiet atmosphere of a retreat deep in the mountains (shinzan-no-tei).  Solitary visitors often seek out the roji to read, meditate or simply allow themselves to re-connect with nature.

A Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) provides a focal point within the inner roji. Although it is at its most striking in autumn, the mass of new, distinctively-shaped, pretty green leaves celebrate the arrival of spring in the roji.

Japanese maples are native to Japan, North Korea, South Korea, eastern Mongolia, and southeast Russia. They are small, slow growing deciduous trees with a graceful shape and beautiful autumn colour. 

They have been cultivated in Japan for centuries and there are many different cultivars with widely varying leaf shape and colouration. Near the bridge in the Sensory Gardens are fine examples of Acer palmatum Atropurpureum which has magnificent bronze-purple, feathery foliage.

In Japan, Japanese maples are of significant cultural importance and strongly associated with “peace” and “calm”. They are often found in traditional Japanese gardens where they may be aesthetically pruned to accentuate their natural beauty.

Japanese maples regularly feature in Japanese literature, legends, poetry and art. The maple leaf and the cherry blossom, symbolising autumn and spring respectively, are the most important seasonal motifs in Japan.

Shake off your worldly cares and re-connect with nature at Shoyoen, Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.
                                                                                                                                By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Sakura

Monday, October 13, 2014

Enjoy a uniquely Japanese custom this weekend at Shoyoen, Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden. Stroll amongst the spectacular cherry blossoms and participate in the ancient custom of hanami.

Hanami (Japanese for “flower viewing”) is the Japanese tradition of enjoying the beauty of cherry blossoms (sakura). In Japan, mature groves of cherry trees in full blossom look like soft, delicate and abundant clouds of petals. People flock to see them and experience the ephemeral loveliness. 

A typical hanami consists of holding an outdoor party under cherry blossom trees during the day or night. Food, beer and sake are enjoyed as visitors bask in the cherry blossoms that fall from the trees.

The tradition is widely believed to have started over twelve hundred years ago during the Nara Period. At that time farmers believed that the arrival of the cherry blossoms revealed omens which would impact upon the success of their crops. They prayed and offered food to the spirits of the trees.

During the Heian Period (794 to 1185) Emperor Saga acknowledged the custom with celebratory feasts and parties under the cherry trees in Kyoto's Imperial Court. While originally limited to Japanese royalty and the elite upper class, hanami spread to all citizens by the Edo Period in the early 1600's.

The cherry blossom was also considered an especially beautiful and important symbol for Japanese samurai because at the height of its beauty it would inevitably fall to the ground to die. Samurai also had to be willing to sacrifice themselves in their prime, and the cherry blossom was considered evidence that this is the natural way of things and could even be beautiful and pure.

Cherry blossoms only last for a brief time so plan your visit to Shoyoen within the next couple of days to ensure that you do not miss this spectacular and culturally significant display.

                                                                                                                           By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Iris

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Flamboyant and fabulous the Iris reigns supreme. Its distinctive flower is highly symbolic in western culture and its rhizomes have been used for hundreds of years in recipes for high class perfumes, medicines and as flavouring for gin.

Iris is the largest genus of the family Iridaceae with up to 300 species and thousands of hybrids. They are perennials, growing from creeping rhizomes or bulbs. Nearly all species of Iris are found in temperate Northern hemisphere zones, particularly from Eurasia to Asia.

They are a highly popular ornamental plant in domestic and botanic gardens. The Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in New Jersey boasts 14,000 irises of approximately 3,000 varieties.

The Iris takes its name from the Greek Goddess Iris, whose main symbol was the rainbow. The Goddess Iris was a messenger to the gods and this led to the flower being regarded as a warning. Irises are also associated with lost love and silent grief.

The famous fleur-de-lis is said to be a stylised rendition of the Iris. In addition to being a popular heraldic symbol in Europe, it is the symbol of the Scouts, an inter-national youth movement.

Founder of the Scouts, Baden Powell adopted the fleur-de-lis as the basis for the Scout’s symbol because it was commonly used to represent “north” on the compass rose. It subsequently became associated with leadership and knowing “the right way to go”.

The rhizomes of certain species of the iris are cultivated and processed to create orris butter a highly valuable ingredient in high class perfumes. Orris butter is said to have a similar fragrance to violets.

The rhizomes are still used as flavouring for Bombay Sapphire Gin along with many other botanical substances including juniper berries, almonds, liquorice, angelica root, coriander seeds and cassia bark.

Irises are currently in full bloom in the Sensory Gardens and Shoyoen at the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden.
                                                                                                                                By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Clivia Miniata

Monday, September 29, 2014

In the shade of the camphor laurels on the northern edge of the Sensory Gardens of the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden is a hybrid of a magnificent South African plant with British aristocratic connections.

The beautiful Clivia miniata (Natal lily, bush lily) is a species of flowering plant in the genus Clivia of the family Amaryllidaceae, native to damp woodland habitats in South Africa (Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces) as well as in Swaziland.

There are six species of Clivia and they are all native to southern Africa. There are also many cultivars.

The first Clivia was discovered by English naturalist William J.Burchell in South Africa in 1813. John Lindley of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew named it Clivia noblis (noblis meaning of noble birth) after Lady Charlotte Clive, Duchess of Northumberland (1787 – 1866).  Lady Charlotte was the first to cultivate and flower Clivia in England.

Lady Charlotte was also governess to the future Queen Victoria of Great Britain and the granddaughter of Major-General Robert Clive (1725 –1774), better known as Clive of India. Robert Clive was the British officer who established the military and political supremacy of the East India Company in Bengal. He is credited with securing India, and the wealth that followed, for the British crown.

In 2001 a new species of Clivia was discovered by conservation officer Johannes Afrika. It was named Clivia mirabilis (mirabilis meaning astonishing, to be wondered at).

The popular Clivia miniata hybrid (miniata meaning the colour of red lead) brightens the Sensory Gardens in late winter and early spring with clusters of vibrant yellow throated, orange trumpet flowers. The flowers are held on stalks above the clump of dark green strap-like leaves.

Clivia miniata is very popular in Australia due to its stoic determination to look magnificent in that most difficult position – dry shade.
                                                                                                                                By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan

Botanical Buzz - Magnolias

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana) in the Japanese Tea Garden of the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden is a vision of beauty at present. The delicate white blooms, lightly tinged with pink are making visitors pause in wonder.

Magnolias are an ancient genus which according to fossil records were once widely distributed across the globe. Continental drift and competitive pressures from more robust and faster growing trees led to the genus becoming extinct in many areas. Consequently, the 80-210 (depending upon the system of classification) species of magnolias have a ‘disjunct distribution’ that is to say, they may be found in different unconnected parts of the world. Magnolia species are now found in eastern and central Asia (including the Himalayas) and North and Central America.

Magnolias can be traced back to the Mesozoic Era, the time of the dinosaurs. They were one of the first flowering plants and evolved to be pollinated by beetles rather than bees. The flowers do not produce nectar but they do produce large quantities of pollen which beetles use for food. Hence the carpels of the magnolia flower are relatively sturdy, to protect against damage from crawling and eating beetles.

The stunning Magnolia × soulangeana was created in France by a retired cavalry officer of Napoleon’s army. Étienne Soulange-Bodin (1774–1846) created the hybrid by crossing two species from South East Asia, Magnolia denudata and M. liliiflora. It is now one of the most widely used magnolias in horticulture.

A magnolia species from the United States is also featured in the botanic garden. Magnolia grandiflora is native to the south-eastern United States and the state flower of both Mississippi and Louisiana.

Magnolia grandiflora may be found in Shoyoen, and the dwarf cultivar, Magnolia grandiflora “Little Gem” may be found in the Sensory Garden.

                                                                                                                                By Ian McAlister & Karen Hagan